5 questions to ask before building your first mailing list

Notebook with notes about building a mailing list

“Focus on growing your list all of the time as newer subscribers are more engaged adding to healthier open rates and ROI.”  Karl Murray, Founder of Send.ie

There’s one marketing strategy that will never get old.  Grow your mailing list.

Of course, today we would rarely call it a ‘mailing list’ – it’s your list of followers, enquiries and clients.

Sure, you want Instagram followers, more retweets, YouTube subscribers and more site traffic. But none of those can compare to…

an email from you being opened and read by a loyal follower.

More on that in just a minute…

In this post we will share why a list is so important and how to build a list with your blog.

Why a mailing list is so important

Something magical happens when someone joins your list (read this post to learn the 5 ways to make money with your blog).

When a reader of your blog accepts an invitation to join your list, the relationship with you and your company changes.

They are now one step further down your sales funnel. You can email them directly to their InBox. They recognize your emails and are more likely to read them.

They see your sales offerings and consider them (not sure how to make this happen? Book a call for a free consultation).

To use the old marketing line – they know, like and trust you. And you now have a follower.

And here’s the most important benefit…

when it comes time to buy your product or service, you are now a preferred supplier.

A real life example

In 2013 James Clear, a part-time photographer, weight lifter and neophyte writer started publishing two blog posts a week. To nobody.

Cover of James Clear book Atomic Habits

No list, no reputation, no marketing…nothing…just a desire to learn how to blog and to see if there was a possible business opportunity.

Fast forward to early 2019 and Clear is a New York Times best seller (his book Atomic Habits takes a fresh look at the now-classic 3-part habit building model popularized by Charled Duhigg in The Power of Habit.)

How did he do it?

He built a list. From the very start, Clear invited readers to join his list. At the time, the offer was simple: join my list and I will email my blog directly to your In-Box as soon as I publish the next article. That’s it!

To give you a more concrete idea of the bizarrely viral growth of his following, in 2018 alone he added over a quarter million readers to his list!

To put this in perspective, it is extremely unlikely any of this would have happened without a list.

What about you? Are you growing your list?

How to grow your mailing list

To get serious about growing your list, there are 5 considerations:

1. Where to keep my list?

This question deserves an entire post, but the basic questions you need to ask are:

  • What is a simple, inexpensive way to get started? Mail Chimp is the gorilla (sorry) of inexpensive mailing list tools. Constant Contact and ConvertKit are great alternatives to get started.
  • What tool offers room to grow, but is also simple to use? Resist the temptation to dive into the deep end with a subscription to a full-blown CRM (Keap, ActiveCampaign, HubSpot, etc.) until you are ready. You can lose hundreds of hours learning how to use a system you aren’t ready for.
  • How can I quickly get started? Ask anyone who has subscribed to a mailing list tool and they’ll admit that all their learning came from just getting started. If you are new to the game, simply sign up for Mail Chimp, get started and consider moving your list to a more robust system once you have experience growing the list.

2. What’s the offer?

Surprisingly, you don’t need a fancy, complicated offer to attract followers. To get started, you can simply offer to send your articles to their InBox.

mailing list opt in form

Once you have some experience, you can add a “Lead Magnet”, like a free self-assessment tool, or self-help How-To article (see our Lead Magnet on our site).

3. What opt-in to use?

The two ways to position an opt-in on your site are a static “box” or responsive pop-up. If you know how to log-in to your site, you should be able to add (or update) a static box opt-in in a few minutes.

There are lots of excellent tools (plug-ins) to add a pop-up on your site, like Optin Monster, Thrive Leads and Convert Pro.

example of a site pop-up

At BlogWorks we use both a static opt-in (at the bottom of our site pages) as well as a pop-up. Despite the possible annoyance for some readers, when used well, a pop-up will consistently get you better results.

4. How to promote the offer?

Having a static invitation to grow your list is a good first start. Even better is promoting the offer.

Remember, getting an additional 1,000 interested followers on your list could turn into more subscribers to your membership program, sales of your online course, or sales of your product line. Every year.

Some of the easiest ways to promote your optin offer are:

  • Invitation in your blog post.
  • Experiment with settings on your pop-up optin.
  • Change the invitation message on your optin.
  • Signature on your emails.
  • Monitor and adjust your current campaign with new Lead Magnets.

5. How to use my mailing list?

The most obvious way to your list is to announce every new blog post. Even with a 15-3-% open/click through rate, this will give you a nice boost in blog traffic.

More sophisticated campaigns use lists to promote book launches, product sales and new products, surveys, conferences and anything that your followers might want.

The bottom line

Here’s the bottom line…

You can spin your wheels chasing YouTube subscribers or fixing your hair for the next Facebook Live, or you can build followers on your land.

You own your list (you don’t own followers on any other platform) and you can use it any way you want. Over time, that list will turn into loyal followers who will read what you write and buy what you offer.

It’s time to get started.

Liked this post? Got another 5 minutes? Here are 3 more of our most popular posts all about putting your blog to work:

How to (finally) make money with your blog
5 brilliant ways to start your blog post with a bang
9 blog topic ideas your audience will love


Designing the Perfect Opt-in Offer

designing the perfect opt-in offer

Have you heard that email marketing is the most effective form of marketing to-date?

Email has a higher ROI than any other marketing platform. Have you started building your email list yet?

The best way to capture emails is with an opt-in offer. In other words – you should create a freebie to give away in exchange for your visitor’s email.

What makes a perfect opt-in offer

There are three things that make a great opt-in offer:

  1. Focused on providing a solution to a single problem.
  2. Quick, simple & effective
  3. Easy & a no-brainer

Focused on providing a solution to a single problem

Your free download should only try to solve one thing. It should be very specific.

If it’s too broad, your visitors may not feel it’s a good fit for them or may get confused as to which solution they need.

For example, if you’re writing a post about how to eat healthy, a good opt-in offer would be something like, “7 tips to eat as healthy as possible with little effort”.

Quick, simple & effective

You don’t need to spend 10 hours creating your offer. At most, it should take you two hours to make it.

People aren’t expecting a massive 300-page guide to being healthy with pictures, recipes, and workouts. They want something simple and easy to implement. Hence, 7 quick tips with little effort.

An opt-in offer doesn't need to be a huge 300-page guide. Keep it simple and to the point. Click To Tweet

Easy & a no-brainer

The easier you make it for your visitor to signup, the higher the chance they’ll take the offer.

Your freebie should be so relevant to your post and so valuable that it’s a no-brainer to download it. You can do that by asking for nothing more than an email address.

Perfect opt-in offers only ask for one piece of info.

HubSpot found the optimal number of form fields is seven. However, look when they only asked for one – nearly a 60% sign-up rate!

Pro tip: Use powerful words in the copy for your offer to increase your signups.

A few quick examples of great opt-in offers

Here are a few great examples:

SmartBlogger’s free guide

Example of a great opt-in offer

This is a great example of an offer. They tell you exactly what problem you’re going to solve (making blog posts go viral) and make it really easy to opt-in. They even have an arrow pointing to the box!

Notice they only ask for one thing – your email.

They also entice you with the copy, “straight to what works, forget everything else.” They skip the junk and go straight to the point.

Straight to what works, forget everything else. How to make the perfect opt-in offer. Click To Tweet

Nathalie Lussier’s challenge offer

Opt-in offer example

What I love about this offer is that it plays to one of Dale Carnegie’s rules to win friends and influence people – it throws down a challenge!

Another cool thing about this offer, which you can’t see in the picture, is that impatient people can pay a small fee to get access to the full course all at once rather than over 30 days. She takes something free and monetizes it!

People love a challenge - so give them one in your opt-in offer! Click To Tweet

Amy Porterfield’s live webinar

live webinar opt-in example

My third and final example is Amy Porterfield’s live webinar opt-in. Of course, putting on a live webinar is a lot more work than a simple worksheet or guide.

However, sales happen on live webinars.

Being live in front of your audience allows you to answer any objections live as they come up. Also, being able to address people by name is really powerful. It makes them feel special and removes barriers to purchasing your products.

Live webinars are where sales happen. Design your next opt-in offer with this in mind! Click To Tweet


As long as your opt-in offers are simple, to-the-point, and relevant, you’ll be successful. Don’t spend too much of your time creating them – use that extra time to promote your website!

Promotion is much harder and more time-consuming than creation. But with these tips, you’ll be capturing leads like mad. Good luck, and don’t give up!

Read next: How to never run out of blog ideas ever again